On September 2, a federal judge held that the SEC had “unlawfully withheld” agency action by failing to promulgate final rules requiring disclosure of government payments by resource extraction issuers and gave the SEC 30 days to file with the court an expedited schedule to finalize the rules. On October 2, the SEC filed a notice with the court outlining a proposed schedule calling for a vote on the proposed rules by year-end and on the final rules by June 27, 2016.
The rules were mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and would require natural resource companies that engage in the commercial development of oil, natural gas or minerals to disclose in their SEC annual report payments to the U.S. government or foreign governments for the purpose of the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals. The original rules were vacated by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2013, but have not yet been re-proposed. The litigation was brought by Oxfam America, Inc. in an effort to expedite the long-delayed rules.
Even while asking the court to approve its proposed schedule, the SEC outlined a number of reasons that the schedule may not be met, including the “unprecedented volume of enforcement, rulemaking, and other regulatory work” currently under way at the SEC, the difficult policy issues raised by the rules, and exigencies such as a potential government shut down.